Musselman, Montana and More
by Glenn Dickey
Jun 07, 2006

THE HIRING of Eric Musselman showed why the Sacramento Kings are in the playoffs consistently and the Warriors are not.

Musselman seemed to have the Warriors on the right track in his two seasons. Oh, he irritated some players – notably Jason Richardson and Mike Dunleavy – with his hard-nosed, defensive-oriented approach, but he had the best two season record, albeit a losing one, since Don Nelson. And, in retrospect, Dunleavy needs a burr under his saddle. When he brings passion to a game, he helps the team, but too often, he looks like he’d rather be reading a book than playing basketball.

Chris Mullin fired Musselman because they disagreed on how the players should be treated, especially the younger ones, and brought in Mike Montgomery, a bold move but not a particularly wise one. Montgomery was a superb college coach but he is decidedly uncomfortable as a pro coach.

To his credit, Mullin didn’t blame Montgomery for the Warriors collapse last season, after pre-season hopes that they could finally get back to the playoffs, so Montgomery will return for the third season of his four-year contract. My guess is that he will be fired after this season, but no, he won’t return to college coaching. From the start, he regarded this as his “retirement contract.”

Meanwhile, Musselman will probably settle in for an extended successful run in Sacramento. I wish him well. He deserved better than he got with the Warriors, but he’s landed in a much better place.

ZITO WATCH: The latest Barry Zito trade rumor surfaced in Sports Illustrated last week, and it’s as bogus as those which preceded it. Barring a complete collapse by the A’s, which is unlikely, Zito will be with the A’s through the season.

The situation was different last year, when general manager Billy Beane wanted to get some value for Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder. This A’s team is solid, once they start getting their injured players back, as they are now. When you trade somebody of Zito’s calibre, you do it because you need to fill a hole elsewhere. That’s not the case with the A’s, and especially not now with the AL West turning out to be much weaker than expected. With Zito, the A’s are a playoff team. Without him, probably not.

SPEED KILLS: Pitching coaches will tell you that location is the most important factor for a pitcher, but an overwhelming fast ball can make a huge difference, too, as Jason Schmidt showed with his 16-strikeout performance last night against the Marlines.

Another example: When A’s manager Ken Macha was asked last week about the return of Rich Harden and Esteban Loaiza, he said, “Harden throws a 95 mph fast ball and a change. I have no doubt he can go out there and get batters out. Loaiza has to show us he can be effective before we’ll activate him.”

Harden pitched one-run ball in the four innings he pitched in Sunday’s game, as the A’s beat the Twins. Loaiza is scheduled to start tomorrow against the Cleveland Indians. My expectations are not high.

KNBR FALLOUT: John Schrader is the latest to leave the station. Schrader was asked to continue doing his reports on the 49ers, including sideline reporting during the game, but for nothing. He was so incensed, he walked off in the middle of a shift.

The new management, Cumulus, is not just pinching pennies; it’s squeezing them until they’re liquid. The plan apparently is to rely on national reporting and cut back on local reporting. One result: When Barry Bonds hit his 715th home run, KNBR’s post-game reporting was much less extensive than it would have been if Bruce McGowan were still there, doing multiple interviews.

It isn’t just the on-air personalities that are gone. The blackout of the call on Bonds’ homer spawned all sorts of ridiculous conspiracy theories; those who might have wanted to do that intentionally were not in a position to do it. It was an engineering problem, caused by the fact that chief engineer Lee Jones was on vacation and the station did not have adequate backup

NO CODY: It won’t be the same in the 49ers’ exhibition season with third-year quarterback Cody Pickett most likely being shifted to wide receiver. The last two summers, Pickett has been a real fan favorite, and many wondered why he didn’t get a chance to start. He finally did, against the Bears in Chicago on an incredibly windy day, and completed just one pass. That wasn’t a true indication of his ability – but neither were his good performances in exhibitions, working against defensive backs that wouldn’t even be playing in the regular season.

WHY NO JOE? Many 49er fans have wondered why Mike Nolan hasn’t had Joe Montana at a mini-camp working with Alex Smith, but the problem may be more on Montana’s end than Nolan’s.

“I haven’t talked personally to Joe, but Mike McCarthy did last year and Mike Singletary made an approach, too,” Nolan said when I talked to him at the 49ers facility yesterday. “Joe is so close to Eddie DeBartolo that I think he may not be comfortable with this situation (because Eddie and John York have a mutual hatred). He doesn’t want to jeopardize his relationship with Eddie.”


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